Business Opportunities Arising from Canada’s Trade Relations Reset

We appreciate this opportunity to introduce our firm and practice to our colleagues in the IR Global network and to present a series of reports on Canada’s changing international trade relations and the opportunities that these changes present.

Woods, LaFortune LLP is a boutique international trade and customs law firm based in Ottawa and Montreal, Canada.  As noted in our firm description on the IR Global website and at, our practice touches on all aspects of international trade law, customs, government procurement, regulatory law, government relations and related administrative law.  Our practice is becoming more important because Canada’s changing trade relations are creating greater opportunities for clients to participate in the Canadian market.  

Canada’s most important trading relationship is with the United States.  Since the NAFTA was concluded in 1994 the total value of Canada-U.S. trade has tripled reaching approximately USD $544 billion in bilateral trade in 2016 or about USD $1.5 billion a day.   The Canada – U.S. relationship is deep, integrated and covers a broad range of products.  However, this relationship is at risk from growing U.S. protectionism. 

Canada, Mexico and the United States are currently engaged in negotiations to modernize the NAFTA.  However, the U.S. administration has taken the position that the NAFTA favours Canada and Mexico and is seeking to “rebalance” the relationship by making demands that the Canadian Government has characterized as unacceptable “poison pills”.  The U.S. has also threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if Canada and Mexico reject the substantial changes that it is seeking – one that would tilt the agreement in favour of U.S. interests. 

While the United States has been openly threatening to withdraw from NAFTA, Canada has been moving ahead with initiatives to diversify its trade relationships including:  conclusion and implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union; the recent announcement that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has been concluded and will be signed in March; ongoing efforts to develop a post-Brexit trade relationship with the United Kingdom; and continuing efforts to develop closer relationships with China, India and other countries.  Despite the possible U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, Canada remains open for business and this creates opportunities for clients to expand their markets in Canada or to develop new and stronger relationships with Canadian companies.

For businesses currently involved in Canada – U.S. trade now is the time to consider the changes that would result from U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA and how these will affect their business going forward so that they can plan for and make any necessary adjustments.

For businesses interested in considering the Canadian market, implementation of CETA and CPTPP they will have greater access to the Canadian market on more preferential terms that will give them a competitive advantage over traders from other countries.  Potential U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA and the change in U.S. access to the Canadian market will give businesses an opportunity to compete against U.S. companies on more preferential terms and to potentially replace those U.S. companies in the Canadian market. 

Over the next few weeks we will present a series of short reports on Canada’s changing trade relationships focusing on NAFTA, CETA, CPTPP, the post-Brexit UK relationship, and the rest of the world and we will explore the potential opportunities that these present.  In each case, the “devil is in the details” and the opportunities are sector-specific and company-specific.  While our short reports are intended to provide an overview, we are available to address specific questions or to assist clients who are interesting in pursuing Canadian trade opportunities.  We look forward to meeting with you to discuss these developments in greater detail


Gordon LaFortune

Michael Woods

Woods, LaFortune LLP